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Anime Fans Vs Netflix and Amazon

The streaming giants Netflix and Amazon investing in Japanese animation can be seen as a sure-fire sign that anime is increasingly being taken seriously by western media companies these days. So surely anime fans must be delighted about this, right?  Not if the chatter you hear online is any indication, where the two companies move into the market is often seen as A Bad Thing™. But why is this? And what (if anything) could they be doing to get the fans onside?

For many years, much of Japan's animated output was inaccessible to fans (legally at least) with only a small proportion making its way west via home video releases (first on VHS, later DVD and Blu-Ray). Today though, things are much different, and it is a rare title that isn't available streaming legitimately somewhere. Anime fans have become used to this situation, with sites such as Crunchyroll offering most within hours of their original broadcast.

And then Netflix, and later Amazon started to get involved, picking up exclusive streaming rights to some series (in some cases, worldwide). So, are fans just annoyed that they need to go to (and subscribe to) a different site to see these shows? That's part of it, certainly, but fans are also being rubbed up the wrong way by how the shows are treated.

As previously mentioned, most of the industry now uses the simulcast model. Netflix, however, is well known for pushing binge-watching. As such, the series that they licence are held back so they can be released in full series (or at least, in two parts as they recently did with Little Witch Academia). They also tend to commission dubs- and not just English, but in multiple widely-spoken languages, which is also a cause of delay. This means that the series often arrive on Netflix many months after they originally aired. Several recently aired series, for example, will not be available until next year.

Hardcore anime fandom revolves around discussing the latest shows as they air, which can drive the impatient to resort to piracy. Then, of course, there are those who can't afford the subscription, or simply don't want to pay it, and again this may drive people to resort to dodgy streaming sites so as not to miss out.

People have pointed out that Netflix does release episodes weekly with some other series- for example, Rick and Morty Season 3 has been released weekly in the UK and Australia. Why not do the same with subtitled anime episodes? The dubbed version could easily be added when ready.

Amazon is a different issue. They release episodes weekly and don't produce any dubs, but the problem is more one of accessibility. Prime Video requires Prime Membership, which is pricey, particularly out of reach for younger fans. On top of this, in the United States, most of their anime content is placed behind an additional paywall as part of the $5 a month Anime Strike channel (on top of the $100+ a year Prime membership). They do offer a cheaper video-only membership, but still, it's a high price to pay in comparison to the cheaper options offered by the anime sites.

Prime members in the UK can (for the time being at least) find the anime as part of their standard membership, but it's pretty hard to find, unless you know what you're looking for.

Amazon has lately been making changes to its original content offerings and is cutting back on how much it will invest going forward. This puts a question mark over whether Amazon's interest in anime will last much longer. Netflix on the other hand only seems to be getting started.

The inner workings and figures of Netflix is a closely guarded secret. And it seems that they have calculated that their current strategy is working just fine. It's probable that many times more people have watched Little Witch Academia on Netflix that would have done otherwise- and this can only be a positive for the health of the industry. In fact, Netflix put money into the show- so it's possible it wouldn't even exist without them.

However- it also couldn't hurt if they tried a bit harder to please the core fanbase too. And if you aren't happy with how they release their anime, the best thing you could do is to let them know (and be polite!). Will it make a difference? You never know, but they do have a record for listening- a passionate fanbase managed to get Sense8 a proper finale episode, and several series have been saved by Netflix after being axed by a mainstream network (most notably Arrested Development).

If enough fans do get in touch then just maybe it will make the difference. Because it's looking like Netflix is going to be a major player in anime for some time to come.

What do you think? Do you think Netflix and Amazon are good for the anime industry or not? Let us know, down below!